Canon has its own proprietary file extension .CR2 for RAW images from the camera. So, if you prefer this brand, you need the best Canon RAW editor compatible with this file format.
Each Canon RAW converter accepts the same RAW data and creates its own version of the visible image. Many people do it using Canon RAW file editor, which is unique when combined with different RAW converters.
I tested the tools described in this article for their ability to convert RAW. The main criterion is the image quality, which will give you the greatest image editing freedom to achieve the best results.
When creating a visible image, the RAW editor uses a predefined set of values to represent gamma, contrast and sharpness. The values applied to a RAW image are often determined by the marketing department of the developer company, which wants the final images to look appealing to the consumer.
More contrast, sharpness and saturation in these images help sell software. But they look fake, making it difficult to edit correctly. Therefore, different RAW image converters and editors create different images to cater to various tastes and preferences.
Verdict: Adobe Lightroom remains the standard for professional software for editing RAW photos. It is a full package with top-grade organization tools, state-of-the-art settings, all possible output and print options. Lightroom Classic combines a smooth workflow interface, organizers and customization tools.
If you download Adobe Lightroom, you will have HDR and panorama stitching tools, enhanced performance, face recognition, mobile app and cloud integration, as well as first-class adjustments for lighting, color, geometry and lens profile at your disposal.
It lets you alter the white balance of the image at the post-processing stage and highlight more details. Lightroom converts RAW data from the camera sensor into a visible image using rendering profiles.
Verdict: It is a Pro version of the RAW image editor for local adjustments with a complete set of tools created by Phase One, the camera manufacturer. Capture One stores your photos in both sessions and collections. Sessions let you group photos by snapshots for different clients. Collections let you manually sort images, annotations – take notes or optimize collaboration.
Capture One offers a keyword entry tool to tag photos with your own unique tags. It supports layers, extensions and presets. For instance, the Format plugin lets you upload your work directly to the online portfolio to Format via the Capture One software. Besides, it is possible to send customers gallery checks and update your online blog. Advanced color editing gives you more flexibility with sliders to adjust color changes (even for the same colors).
Verdict: A reliable alternative image editor smoothly converts RAW images to JPG and is available as a plugin for Lightroom. This image editing and ordering system boasts customizable interface parameters, individual profiles, presets, local U Point adjustment technology, manual and auto mode, color protection and multiple export formats. There is also a PhotoLibrary function with an AutoFill search tool.
DxO Optics Pro, known for its laboratory lens correction profiles and RAW data transformations, has bought Google’s Nik Collection and integrated control point adjustment tools. PhotoLab continues the tradition of lens-based image auto-correction, Canon lenses and camera body, unmatched noise reduction, and other innovative image improvements: new color tools, enhanced keyword functionality and a recovery tool.
Verdict: ON1 PhotoRAW is a remarkable Canon RAW file editor free due to several unique features. The program doesn’t require you to upload photos in RAW format to edit them. In fact, all you have to do is find the images stored on your device and select them. Since ON1 doesn’t ask you to upload RAW images to the software, you will see that it works lightning fast.
You will get access to hundreds of presets, stackable filters and other image enhancement solutions: textures and borders, live settings and previews, as well as custom effects options. It works as a standalone program, complete with its own toolset for viewing/cataloging images, and many other tools. In terms of performance and price, ON1 PhotoRAW is great. The latest versions have added image masking and AI-based clipping.
Verdict: Affinity becomes a serious competitor to Photoshop, given their similar interfaces and capabilities. It is a vector graphic design application that combines a vector and pixel graphics environment.
Affinity Photo may have an affordable price, but its layering, masking and image retouching tools are just as powerful as that of Photoshop. Filter effects in Affinity can be applied live. Its HDR tonal display tools, workspace and retouching tools are excellent.
Verdict: This universal photo editing store can be used separately or as a Lightroom/Photoshop/Apple Photos plugin. Luminar offers a collection of preset effects and customizable workspaces organized by category for those who wish to apply an instant “look”. They are created using a set of filters based on photo editing tasks (aerial photography, landscape, portrait), which can be combined to create your own presets.
Luminar supports adjustment layers and image layers. It offers tools for cataloging images through libraries, as well as non-destructive image editing using Lightroom keyboard shortcuts. You can sort, label and categorize images in its library.
Luminar has gained popularity due to the AI slider (automatic photo adjustments, including brightening, toning and other basic settings), exclusive filters (sunlight and Orton filters) and special presets for DJI drones.
Verdict: The Camera Raw plug-in offers comprehensive support for the RAW format in Adobe products. It perfectly combines and complements Photoshop, Lightroom or After Effects. Controls are grouped into clearly named folding sections on a single panel. Sliders for contrast, tone, saturation, etc. move smoothly and precisely when dragged. The preview image is updated in real time to show your changes even before you release the mouse button.
ACR is the best Canon RAW editor since it adds brightness, texture, clarity, haze removal and black/white settings. The lens correction effects eliminate chromatic aberration and vignetting. If you are an Adobe adept and don’t mind a monthly subscription to parent apps, Camera Raw is highly recommended for faster and more intuitive image editing.
Verdict: It is a robust cross-platform RAW photo processing system released as free software. RawTherapee boasts a powerful toolset for creating stunning photos. A distinctive feature is that it uses non-destructive image editing, so you can go back to the original file at any time.
It is possible to apply pre-installed presets or create your own ones. RawTherapee lets you customize colors using a special LittleCMS system. Besides, you will find a vast array of tools for image color correction, digital noise reduction, vignetting and rotation.
It is the best software due to the ability to control exposure, adjust shadows and light, adjust the tone and more. RawTherapee supports High Dynamic Range DNG, film negatives and monochrome cameras.
Verdict: You have already paid for DPP when purchasing a Canon DSLR. Although it only supports RAW camera file format taken with the company’s own cameras, you can expect full support for each Canon camera to be available soon after release. DPP is compatible with sRGB, Adobe RGB, Wide Gamut RGB, as well as a color management system (CMS) using the International Color Consortium (ICC) profile.
Canon Digital Photo Professional is high-performance RAW image editing, processing and viewing software for Canon cameras, such as digital EOS and PowerShot with RAW capability. Using DPP, you can effortlessly perform basic and advanced editing and printing of RAW images. Examples of available functions are image rotation, white balance, dynamic range, color adjustments, and fine-tuning of tone curve characteristics.
Verdict: Inheriting the layout and basic features of Adobe Lightroom, Darktable can import images into a database and offers the same non-destructive image editing tools when working with JPEG and RAW files. It pleases users with pretty robust tools, including lens correction and perspective. Being free and open-source, Darktable provides comprehensive resource management and decent image editing capabilities.
Your workflow can benefit from GPU-accelerated image editing, cross-platform compatibility, convenient photo filtering and sorting, as well as support for multiple image types. Darktable boasts tools that Lightroom doesn’t have. However, the interface of this free Lightroom alternative isn’t so complicated compared to its commercial counterpart.